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Full text of "History And Human Relation"

HISTORY   AND    HUMAN   RELATIONS

sometimes when they have not been correctly under*
stood; and very supple and delicate ones turned by sheer
repetition and rigidity of mind into hard dogmatic
formulas. I have seen historians condemn the Middle
Ages for their blindness in quoting and requoting earlier
authorities and so perpetuating an original error; when
it was in fact these self-same historians who were doing
just that very thing—repeating judgments at second-
hand—in the very act of stating that particular case. I
do not personally feel that in modern times technical
history, in spite of all the skill that has gone to the
making of it, has ever been taken up by a mind that I
should call Shakespearean in its depth and scope, save
possibly in the remarkable case of Ranke. I think that,
compared with the novelists, the historians have even
been coarse-fingered and too lacking in subtlety in their
handl|ng of human nature; so that, if he had only the
novelists and the historians to judge from, a visitor from
another planet would think that they were talking about
two different kinds of substance.

In any case, though we had an Aristotle or a Shakes-
peare as an historian, the best that any of us can do at a
given moment only represents the present state of
knowledge in respect of the subject with which we are
. dealing. There is a profound sense in which all
histories—like all scientific interpretations of the uni-
verse—are only interim reports; and in history the
discovery of a small fact that may be pivotal is calculated
to produce a drastic reshaping of the whole field of
study. It is not so much the concrete facts—like the
date of the batde of Waterloo—that are liable to such

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